November 14, 2005
Hon. Michael Bloomberg
Mayor of the City of New York
New York, NY 10007
Dear Mayor Bloomberg:
I am writing to request a second look at the restoration of P.S. 109, located at 215 East 99th Street in East Harlem, for use as a public school.
During June, 2005, I called Jamie Smar, a representative of the Department of Education. Jamie Smar informed me that P.S. 109 would be turned over to HPD, and two groups, Minneapolis-based Art Space and East Harlem Operation Fightback, for artist housing.
In the same conversation, I was also told by Mr. Smar that this was the only alternative to demolition.
Later that same month, HPD hosted a presentation by Art Space and East Harlem Operation Fightback. Coalition member Ray Plumey and myself along with Peg Breen and Alex Herrera of the New York City Landmarks Conservancy, and Johnny Rivera from Rep. Charles Rangel's office, were informed that PS 109 would be restored to create housing for local artists, and possibly some community space on the first floor.
Since then, I have been told by Caroline Zerc of HPD, that only 50% of the space would go to artists that live within the boundaries of Community Board 11 and that 100% of the space would be used for these apartments, i.e., no community space.
The entire point of saving P.S. 109 was not only to preserve this architectural treasure, but, even more important, to not deprive the children of East Harlem from going to such a special building to be educated. This is the goal that inspired the architect and NYC Schools Superintendent C. B. J. Snyder to design such beautiful schoolhouses in poor and immigrant neighborhoods all over New York 100 years ago.
Today, the dream that Snyder had, that immigrant children, living in poverty would believe that going to these grand schools, they would be able to believe in a higher level of ideals, and dreams could come true.
These schoolhouses are unique to New York City. So are the children that live in East Harlem.
Although the Department of Education continues to claim that the schools of East Harlem are "underutilized", this simply is not the case. The last survey to determine need for space by the Board of Education was done at least 10 years ago.
In July, 2001, the East Harlem Coalition to Improve Our Public Schools, chaired by Rev. Norman Eddy, did a formal study which proved overcrowding. Now, four years later, the population of East Harlem continues to grow, with new construction of high-rises. Many more families with children continue to add to the population of East Harlem. With that comes a need for more public school space.
The Campaign for Fiscal Equity won a recent lawsuit, as a result of which $14.8 billion dollars in additional funds will start flowing into the New York City schools in the next few years.
With the availability of these new funds, we think that this is an opportune time to restore P.S. 109 and retrofit the building with any amenities to bring it into the state of the art, which is what Mr. Smar told me that the vision of the Department of Education is.
Please let me make it clear at this time that the Coalition to Save P.S. 109 has no desire whatsoever to see P.S. 109 demolished.
We have worked very hard to save and protect P.S. 109 through land marking. P.S. 109 now enjoys landmark status and is on the New York State and National Registers of Historic Places.
You have repeatedly stated that you support smaller classrooms and higher quality schools in New York City. Restoring P.S. 109 would be a fiscally sound investment that provides an opportunity to fulfill both of these drastically needed goals.
GWEN GOODWIN, Chair
The Coalition to Save P.S. 109